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9 Crime Novels That Will Keep You Up at Night

As readers we love to embark on literary journeys filled with crime, terror, frightening characters and events that keep us on the edge of our seats. 


Books and films are platforms which we can use to confront our deepest fears and process them in safe ways. In addition to offering us a thrilling ride, these novels represent and confront the most disturbing, vile, and unforgettable crimes, motives, and aftermaths. While there are tons of terrifying novels out there, here are 9 that will truly terrorize you.


1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote


In Cold Blood

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In Cold Blood mixes true crime with narration, detailing the real-life murders of the Clutter family in 1959. The family of four was brutally murdered by two strangers for no apparent reason than a robbery-gone-wrong. Capote spent months in the small town in which the crime occurred and was there before, during, and after the trials. His close interviews with one of the perpetrators particularly offer an inclusive sketch of what went on in the mind of a murderer.


2. In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware



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Making its way into the top book picks of popular newspapers and magazines like The New York Times, New York Post, and Entertainment Weekly, this thriller is the definition of a weekend trip gone wrong. When a reclusive writer embarks on a nostalgic trip in the woods with old pals, a good time, turns into a murder mystery plagued by foggy recollections. 


3. Psycho by Robert Bloch



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This gripping crime novel is so gruesome and disturbing that it inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic film Psycho (if you don’t know the iconic shower scene turned blood bath, who are you?) The narrative is inspired by real-life crimes committed by Ed Gein, a notorious psychopath, who is the epitome of “mommy issues.” The protagonist is a mommy’s boy whose disturbing infatuations with women leads to a gruesome and unforgettable crime and aftermath.



4. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie 



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Inspiring the recent film adaptation directed by Kenneth Branagh, legendary crime novelist Agatha Christie takes readers on a murderous ride involving a slew of unforgettable and suspicious characters who are all aboard the Orient Express. The seemingly typical train ride turns into a murder mystery after a millionaire is found dead, stabbed a dozen times. If you’re a fan of murder mysteries, then this one is for you!


5. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy



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This captivating crime novel interweaves a thrilling narrative of police procedure with true story of the murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947. On January 15, 1947 the tortured corpse of a young aspiring actress was found in an empty lot in Los Angeles. The victim immediately became known as the Black Dahlia by the newspapers who were in a frenzy over the peculiar, disgusting, and mysterious details surrounding the crime. Ellroy portrays two detectives who embark on a quest to capture the criminal responsible and brought about some reassurance and stability to the nation who were rattled by the disturbing evidence. 


6. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena


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This intriguing novel investigates the facade of perfect relationships, as a seemingly loving couples becomes under the suspicious of a gruesome murder committed at a dinner party. The pair’s panicked appearance persuades detective Rasbach to dig deep into the strange background of the couple, where he uncovers something unsettling. As the true account of the murder comes to light, the couple has to fight against their natural suspicions while trying to prove their individual innocence. Trying to piece together the puzzle of the crime and events leading up to it offers a thrilling read.


7. Twisted by Sue Hollister Barr



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If you’re a fan of serial killers and cults, then this one if for you. This dark novel follows a group of youth living in San Francisco in the 1960’s whose passion for sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll becomes overshadowed by the rise of a killing spree by a vile offender. After attempting to flee the state and embarking on a cross country journey to distance themselves from the violence, they find themselves unable to escape. 


8. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 



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The Queen of Suspense returns on our list with this classic crime thriller involving ten strangers whose vacation on a secluded island together quickly results in gruesome murders. While the initial murder of a victim begs the reader to ask who did it, audiences quickly realize that each character is guilty of something. As the group falls one by one, the culpability and suspicions surrounding each character changes rapidly. Christie’s novel is a true example of suspense and readers will play the guessing game until the very last page.


9. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy



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While some readers may consider Blood Meridian a Western novel rather than a crime novel, there is no lack of violence and depravity in this tale. This epic novel follows the violence spread across the United States during the westward expansion in the 1850s. Sound boring? Well the violent action ions committed by one character to the next will keep you awake and invested until the very last page. The story follows a young teen who walks into a very real nightmare involving Indians who are being hunted, murdered, and sold like animals. The extreme violence is truly terrifying and its underlying themes of racism, subjugation, and more, are much more disturbing. 


Do you have any recommendations to add to this list? Let us know in the comments.


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